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A new view on what to do to woo a Jew

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A new view on what to do to woo a Jew photo1

Photo Credit: © Tracy Renee Photography

From infancy to adulthood, Jewish mothers school their children in the art of wooing their future mates, but even the feistiest of Jewish mothers might find it difficult to keep up with the rapidly-changing, multimedia landscape that continues to shape modern, dating culture. 

For additional guidance, Jewish singles can now refer to Tamar Caspi's 2014 book, How to Woo a Jew: The Modern Jewish Guide to Dating and Mating. This wooing companion offers one of the first comprehensive roadmaps—from inception tochuppahfor contemporary Jewish dating in a digital age.

"Grab some snacks and get comfortable because we are in for a long ride. Internet dating is here to stay," said Caspi, who is a syndicated Jewish dating advice columnist and also JDate.com's official advice columnist and member advisor.

"If you're single and not online yet, then you're missing out on thousands and thousands of prospects," Caspi added.

Eleven percent of American adults—and 38 percent of those who identify as currently "single and looking" for a mate—have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study of online dating and relationships. 

"People in nearly every major demographic group old and young, men and women, urbanites and rural dwellers are more likely to know someone who uses online dating (or met a long term partner through online dating) than was the case eight years ago," the Pew study summary said.

In How to Woo a Jew, Caspi offers a nuanced manual for Jewish singles who are journeying through the dating life cycle. 

"This book is not just for young singles but also older singles, single parents, divorcés and divorcées, widows, and the happily wed, too," Caspi said. 

Caspi—herself, divorced and newly engaged—begins the book with her own account of love found, lost, and found again. She then profiles six case studies of varying ages and life stages, whom she traces throughout the book.

How to Woo a Jew spans advice on self-development, setting realistic dating expectations, shopping for mates online and in real life and tying the knot. Caspi illustrates the art of what she calls "poly-dating," or juggling several prospects at once. Finally, she offers tips for transitioning into long term relationships, tackling relationship milestones such as cohabitation, and finally engagement and marriage. 

While her focus is on dating and mating, Caspi takes several moments in her book to honor the difficulties of single hood and how to navigate pressures from friends and family—she even provides "An Open Letter to All Moms and Dads of Single Adult Jews."

In her book, Caspi is an overt advocate for JDate.com. Her chapter, "No More Hating on Internet Dating," provides concrete, section-by-section advice on how to build the ideal JDate.com profile, along with tips on how to communicate with fellow daters. 

She also makes no attempt to hide behind her belief that Jews should woo fellow Jews. In fact, Caspi admits she began her dating journey focused on non-Jews, and eventually her priorities changed. 

"A visceral reaction called attraction brings you toward each other, but you can't build a lasting relationship on just that," Caspi said. "Commonalities are imperative, and the most important one is religion.

…There is a connection with Jew-on-Jew love that you will be hard-pressed to find with someone who was raised differently," Caspi added.

Caspi candidly encourages what she believes to be productive dating behavior, but makes no attempt to pigeon hole readers into one form of religious, moral, or sexual expression. Instead, she merely calls on readers to evaluate themselves honestly and identify their priorities for mates. 

"Having realistic expectations of yourself and your date are both important mind-sets to have, and with them, you can enter the dating scene with the security of knowing you aren't wasting anyone's time," Caspi said. 

In How to Woo a Jew, Caspi presents a step-by-step plan for finding, snagging, and marrying one's Jewish soul mate. After doling out advice, Caspi leaves it in the readers' hands to seek out their own beshert—or destiny.

"Jews believe that your destiny is already written in the Book of Life, but it is up to you to make life what you want of it," Caspi said.

Stephanie Goldfarb wins ‘America’s Best Cook’

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Stephanie Goldfarb wins ‘America’s Best Cook’ photo 1

Photo credit: Food Network


After a pressure-filled six-week competition, Chicago’s own Stephanie Goldfarb cooked her way to winning the title of “America’s Best Cook” and $50,000 on the Food Network reality series.

Goldfarb, 29, is a senior associate of teen initiatives at the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago., In addition to her social work expertise, she is known for hosting delicious supper club events to benefit Chicago Women’s Health Center, where she serves on the board. Although vegetarian cuisine is her specialty, Goldfarb entered “America’s Best Cook” a self-proclaimed “recovering vegetarian” and ultimately won the competition by cooking lamb for the final challenge, judged by Food Network icon Bobby Flay.

Hosted by Ted Allen of “Chopped,” the show brought together the best home cooks representing the country’s four regions to learn from and cook for the best chefs on the Food Network. Goldfarb won a spot on Team North in the premiere episode under the tutelage of Michael Symon, who offered his much-needed meat-cooking expertise. Goldfarb also brought her Jewish roots and Israel experiences to the show, cooking latkes and the Israeli breakfast dish shakshuka for different challenges.

The day after her big win, Goldfarb chatted with us from Los Angeles, where she went to be with her family to watch the finale.

Stephanie Goldfarb wins ‘America’s Best Cook’ photo 2

Photo credit: Food Network

Describe the feeling of being named “America’s Best Cook” (by Bobby Flay no less)? 
In one word it was surreal. I was really just trying to survive and I was trying to have a good time, but I never considered that I would actually have a shot at winning or competing to win until it was down to two of us. So I was stunned, absolutely stunned, when I heard it, and to get that information, the news, from Bobby Flay was a real dream come true. I’ve been watching him on the Food Network since he started his career on the network. I’ll never forget it. 

Just how hard was it to keep a secret?
Let me tell you, it’s been very hard to keep it a secret, because, first of all, anytime you have good news you want to share it. And I come from a family of talkers. I knew if I said one word to anybody it wouldn’t just get around my family, it would probably get around the entire Jewish community. You can count on Jews for a lot, but keeping a secret is not one of them [laughing]. I knew it would be worth it if I could just keep it a secret. I knew I’d get to celebrate like I did last night and that’s all I could think about, getting to experience that with my family and how happy they would be once they got to watch the show. It was hard, but not impossible.

You were so positive and enthusiastic during this whole competition, but right when the clock stopped after the final challenge we saw your emotional side. What were you feeling?
If I remember correctly I was just trying to soak it all up because I knew that was my last time cooking in that arena, I knew that was my last time cooking for all these incredible world-class chefs and I was really just trying to stay focused. But also I knew that I had taken on a huge challenge by cooking meat by myself, without the supervision of Michael Symon. It was for all or nothing and I knew it had to be perfect. It’s in my nature to second guess myself, so I think I was also trying to run through all the steps I took and to make sure I did everything correctly.

What would you say was the most significant way you grew from this experience, both as a cook and as a person?
As a cook, the most significant way I grew was that I learned skills in a way that I never would have been able to learn them in any other setting. To learn one-on-one from an iron chef, and not just any iron chef – I would have been thrilled to work with any of those chefs, but Michael Symon is a special guy and he really took his mentorship seriously. I learned particularly the meat-cooking, but also plating, how to compose a beautiful and artful plate. And I learned how to put less food on a plate. He really taught me about editing, which has always been a problem with me. I tend to really over-feed people and put tons of food on a plate and he really helped me be a little more selective.

As a person, I’ve always struggled with confidence and a sense of security in myself and [throughout] this competition all I had was me to rely on and I really showed myself that I can compete at a high level,that I can hold my own and that I can trust myself to make good decisions.

What was one thing that we didn’t necessarily see on camera that you want people to know about your experience on “America’s Best Cook?”
I can’t think of one thing in particular, but there were so many little moments that I had with the different iron chefs and with the different contestants that the camera could never show, behind the scenes, sitting in the hallway waiting for our results or waiting to hear what the ingredient was. I will say everyone who was competing on that show was in it for just the best reasons, because they wanted to have fun and they wanted to learn and they wanted to do something new. I can’t speak for anybody else, but there was definitely nothing but good feelings among all of us and we all still talk and we all have relationships with each other and it’s been nothing but positive.

Now that you’re sure to be asked for advice all the time as the reigning best home cook in the country, what words of wisdom do you have for those aspiring to be better home cooks?
I think for aspiring cooks, salt and citrus are something that home cooks don’t use enough of. To really season your food properly, don’t be afraid to use whole spices and grind them yourself, and fresh herbs – it’ll change a dish completely. Not just fresh citrus, but acids, like vinegars and things, will change a dish completely if you just use a couple drops here and there. And also something that I learned from Michael Symon is to edit, really self-edit. You don’t need to put a ton of food on the plate in order for people to be satisfied. Simple is typically best and that’s the number one rule I learned when I was on this show.

We’re glad to hear even with your success that you’re still committed to your teen philanthropy work at JUF and the many other things you do to help others! What current and future plans do you have for continuing to merge your passion for cooking with your passion for charitable work?
I’m very committed to my supper club and using my food as a way to raise money for good causes. I always raise money for the Chicago Women’s Health Center,an organization that’s very important to me and to my community, but I’d also really like to expand my supper club and do more private events for people. I’d also like to make some money for myself cooking. I’ve started to do that a little bit. I’m really committed to my work at JUF—I love working in the Jewish community, I love my teens, and I love the families I work with. I’m really just trying to figure out how to do it all. There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day, but I’m going to try to find a couple extra.


Stephanie Goldfarb on 'America's Best Cook' - Episode 4

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Stephanie Goldfarb on 'America's Best Cook' - Episode 4 photo 1

Stephanie gets started on her shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. Photo credit: Food Network

Four episodes in and Stephanie Goldfarb is still going strong on “America’s Best Cook,” the new Food Network reality cooking competition that pits the country’s best home chefs against each other with the help of Iron Chef mentors.

Just to remind you all, Goldfarb, 29, who lives in Edgewater and works as the senior associate of teen initiatives at the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, is one of the contestants hoping to win it all, and she’s agreed to check in with Oy!Chicago after each show airs to share her thoughts and behind-the-scenes knowledge. 

After a trip to the pressure cooker in the second episode, her profiteroles wowed Chef Ron Ben-Israel in the third episode’s challenge when the contestants were asked to prepare dessert. And last week, despite some drama in the kitchen between her and mentor Chef Michael Symon about how to best prepare her dish, she impressed this week’s guest judge, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, in the brunch challenge with her shakshuka and was safe yet again.

Stephanie Goldfarb on 'America's Best Cook' - Episode 4 photo 2

Geoffrey gives Stephanie a high compliment: "These are my flavors," he tells her. "This is Middle Eastern to me, and I'm Middle Eastern." Photo credit: Food Network

We can’t wait to see what she cooks up next week!

1. Congrats on avoiding the pressure cooker two weeks in a row! Was it a relief or did you miss the extra time in the kitchen with Michael?
Thanks! Yeah, I was ASTONISHED that I wasn’t sent to the pressure cooker. I would have absolutely loved to spend some more one-on-one time with Chef Symon, but nothing compares with the thrill of being safe for another week. All I really cared about was staying alive so I could have more opportunities to learn from my mentor.

2. Watching it back, how do you feel about the whole shakshuka shake up?
I mean, I’m slightly mortified after watching it! Which is not at all different from how I felt when it was all going down during filming. I am, by nature, extremely sensitive and really concerned with pleasing people. Especially people who I admire and am learning from! What can I say? I thrive off positive affirmation. So when I opened the oven to see raw egg whites sadly staring back at me, I lost it. I’ve made this dish perfectly hundreds of times before, and I almost ruined it on national television! All I could think of was a bunch of Jews in a room saying, “that Goldfarb ruined our food. She killed shakshuka!” Thank God Michael Symon snapped me out of it. He broke a 15-year streak of not yelling in a kitchen to do it. I’m going to go ahead and take that as an accomplishment on my part.

3. When presenting your dish, you said shakshuka reminded you of your first trip to Israel—tell us about that. 
Ah, Israel. I went on Birthright and stayed on for a month to travel and volunteer in the IDF. I ate shakshuka for the first time while I was there and completely fell in love with it. The bread, the sauce, the runny egg yolk, the Mediterranean sea reflected in my sunglasses as I ate it. Shakshuka has made a regular appearance in my kitchen since then. My non-Jewish friends and dinner guests are forever in my debt. 

4. In the end Chef Geoffrey Zakarian who as you said “has eaten shakshuka a million times before” loved your dish and last week Chef Ron Ben-Israel called your profiteroles “brilliant.” What is it like having all of these amazing and accomplished chefs taste your food?
So back to that positive affirmation thing… I’ll be running off those fumes for the rest of my life! The next time someone criticizes some food I serve them, I’ll just tell them to take it up with Zakarian.

Call for nominations for the 2014 Chicago Jewish 36 under 36 list

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36 under 36 logo 2014

Who is an extraordinary Jew you know? We are looking for the young leaders, humanitarians, educators, social activists and movers and shakers of Chicago to be part of Double Chai in the Chi: Chicago’s annual Jewish 36 under 36 list.  

Presented by YLD and Oy!Chicago, Double Chai in the Chi shines a spotlight on the faces of Chicago’s Jewish future and recognizes the amazing contributions of our generation.  

What we’re looking for:  

People who are making a difference through their work, who give back in their free time, who innovate and inspire, who are leaders in their communities and the Jewish community or are simply Jews we should know.  

How to nominate:  

Got someone in mind? Nominate him or her by filling out this form before May 27. You will receive an email confirming your nomination.  

When will the list be announced?  

The 36 honorees will be announced and profiled on Oy!Chicago on July 15 and recognized at YLD’s WYLD party on Aug. 7. To be the first to know, like Oy!Chicago and YLD on Facebook.  

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